Monday, June 13, 2011

South Africa's Rocket Man Elon Musk Announces New Asian Launch Contract

SpaceX Secures Launch Contract in Major Asian Market
HAWTHORNE, CA – Thai satellite company THAICOM Plc. (SET Index: THCOM) has chosen Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to launch the new Thaicom 6 telecommunications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) from its Cape Canaveral launch site in the second quarter of 2013.
The contract brings another international launch to the United States to fly with SpaceX. Thaicom is the eighth non-U.S. customer manifested for upcoming flights aboard the Falcon 9.
“This deal highlights the confidence that satellite operators have in SpaceX capabilities, and is the latest example of the effect SpaceX is having on the international commercial launch market,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX chief executive officer (CEO) and chief technical officer (CTO). “Asia is a critical market and SpaceX is honored to support its growing launch needs with a reliable U.S.-based solution.”
The Thaicom 6 satellite is designed to serve the growing satellite television market in South and South-East Asia, as well as Southern Africa. Built by Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, VA , and expected to weigh about 3,200 kilograms at launch, the satellite will operate from 78.5 degrees east and carry 18 C-band and eight Ku-band transponders. Thaicom 6 is planned to be in service by the middle of 2013.
Arak Chonlatanon, CEO of Thaicom Plc., said, “The Falcon 9 will serve our unique needs at Thaicom. This dedicated launch vehicle is both cost-effective and best-matched to our requirements. We look forward to working closely with the SpaceX team to ensure that the Thaicom 6 satellite will be successfully launched.”
About SpaceX
SpaceX is the leading American space transport company, advancing the boundaries of space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. Following the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, the Falcon 9 / Dragon system, will take over delivery of initially cargo and later astronauts to the International Space Station.
In April 2011, SpaceX announced its plans to design, build and launch the Falcon Heavy – the world’s largest rocket since the Saturn V moon rocket. The Falcon Heavy will have the ability to carry payloads weighing over 53 metric tons to orbit, offering more than twice the performance of other commercial providers. The Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon spacecraft together will ensure the U.S. maintains leadership in the dynamic global space marketplace. For more information, visit
About Thaicom
Thaicom Plc. is a leading satellite and telecommunications operator with customers throughout Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe. Currently, the company operates two satellites, Thaicom 4 (iPSTAR), one of the largest communications satellites ever launched, and Thaicom5. Thaicom 4 delivers broadband services to millions of users across 14 countries in Asia and the Pacific.  The satellite has a bandwidth capacity of more than 45 gigabits. Established in 1991, the company provides satellite communications and related services, Internet-related services and media, as well as telephone services in neighboring countries. Thaicom is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) under THCOM.
For more information, please visit the company's website and

    Thaicom has chosen SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch its Thaicom 6 satellite.                                      

African leaders make pact on trade bloc: Fin24: Economy

African leaders make pact on trade bloc: Fin24: Economy

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Excellent Intelligence Report On Chinese Investment In Africa

Africa’s Riding the Red Dragon

By Richard (Rick) Mills
Ahead of the herd

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

When I entered the business world, three-fourths of the world was closed – China, Russia, Vietnam, India, most of Africa… In 2010, the entire world is wide open, the developing world is growing twice as fast as the developed world and there’s still arguably several billion people out there that will modernize and progress.” Caterpillar’s CEO Doug Oberhelman

The mining industry is printing money: Citigroup expects it to have aggregate net cash of $70 billion by the end of 2012.” Wall Street Journal

The Competition

Continued growth in consumption resources is being driven by growth in China and the rest of Asia. Chinese companies are increasingly acquiring assets, as are Indian companies, prompting other global miners into a race to secure mineral assets of their own.” George Fang, Standard Bank’s Head of Mining and Metals China

The global mining industry is facing stiff new competition in getting deals done. The new competitor’s for the world’s resources have a mandate to secure long term resource deals for domestic use and have the financing capabilities any major mining company, or for that matter any government, would be envious of.

China was never a major investor in foreign mining deals - that has recently changed with China now a very active and increasingly aggressive investor.

China’s state owned enterprises (SOE) and sovereign wealth funds (SWF) were armed with hundreds of billions of US dollars from the country’s foreign reserves and sent out to scour the globe for resources - they went on the hunt to fuel China’s exploding economy. China wants to diversify out of the massive US dollar component of its Foreign Reserves so the SOE/SWFs have no problem dealing in straight cash and operating in what some might consider high risk areas. The Chinese also have a longer term horizon for their ultimate payoff because they are mostly after off-take supply agreements from early stage development projects.

According to a recent PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) report on M&A activity in the mining sector in 2010, six percent of the world's mining deals involved Chinese acquirers. Around 62% of China's deals were focused on projects within China and another 16% were in adjoining Asian countries. For the decade ending in 2010, PwC counted a total of 400 Chinese deals worth US$48 billion – at the start of the referenced decade China was a negligible player in M&A.

PwC also said they expect Chinese companies to be more active in M&A in 2011. PwC thinks part of that increased activity will be consolidation of the country's fragmented domestic mining sector, but a large part will also come from outside China where they control only one percent of overall production.

Despite a few high publicity rebuffs the Chinese have completed a few deals in North America:
  • CIC invested $1.5-billion for a 17.2-per-cent stake of Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd
  • The Aluminum Corp. of China picked up Peru Copper Inc., a Canadian miner with assets in South America, for $779-million
  • China’s CRCC-Tongguan Investment Co. bought Vancouver’s Corriente Resources Inc. for $549-million
According to Paul Murphy, head of Asia Pacific Mining & Metals at Ernst & Young, Chinese investors have shifted their focus from Australia (In 2009, China became Australia's largest export market, surpassing Japan) and Canada to higher risk destinations which include Brazil (In 2009, China displaced the United States as Brazil’s top trade partner), Ecuador and Africa.

Rising from $2 billion in 1999 China's trade with Africa is set to top $110 billion by the end of 2011.

Here are some of the African deals Chinese firms have become involved in:
  • China's CNOOC Ltd and Ghana National Petroleum Corp (GNPC) havesubmitted a $5 billion bid for Kosmos Energy LLC's assets
  • Jinchuan Group Ltd.'s $878 million takeover of South African platinum explorer Wesizwe Platinum Ltd
  • In September 2010, Ghana signed a $12.87 billion loan with two Chinese banks, China Development Bank and China Exim Bank, to fund its oil, gas, agricultural and infrastructure projects
  • July 2010, Aluminium Corp of China Ltd (Chalco) agrees to invest $1.35 billion in a Guineajoint venture to develop the Simandou project, which partner Rio Tinto claims is the world's largest undeveloped iron ore deposit
  • July 2010, China's Shandong Iron & Steel agrees to a $1.5 billion deal to buy into African Minerals' Tonkolili project in Sierra Leone
  • April 2010, China Nonferrous Metal Mining Company (CNMC) plans to invest $600 million inZambia in 2010 and 2011. CNMC operates the Luanshya copper mine and Chambishi smelter in Zambia, Africa's biggest copper producer
  • Bloomberg reported, May 29th 2011, that China National Gold Group Corp., the state-owned company, wants to invest in gold projects in Africa as it expects bullion to trade near record levels for the next three years
  • Citic Group, China’s biggest state owned investment company, and partners, agreed to buy Gold One International Ltd. for about A$444 million ($469 million) to gain assets in South Africa
  • In November 2010 China pledged to grant African countries $10 billion in low-interest development loans over the next three years, establish a $1 billion loan program for small and medium-size businesses, and forgive the remaining debt on certain interest-free loans that China has granted less developed African nations in the past
  • China and South Africa signed more than 10 deals in mining, finance, nuclear energy and other sectors during a January 2011 visit by South African President Jacob Zuma
  • China Railway Group began talks in August 2010 with South Africa's government over a proposed US$30 billion high-speed rail project between Johannesburg and the eastern port city of Durban
  • China Railway Materials Commercial Corporation acquire a12.5% stake in African Minerals Limited (AML) for US$244m
  • China National Nuclear Corp announced it was in talks to build a nuclear power plant in South Africa last year
  • Standard Bank is advising China Guangdong Nuclear Power in similar negotiations. Major deals have been signed in the mining, consumer goods and auto industries
Thanks to the trillions of foreign exchange reserves it currently holds China offers loans at highly competitive interest rates. For example, the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) gave the Angolan government three loans at interest rates ranging from LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate - the rate banks charge each other on loans) plus 1.25 percent, up to LIBOR plus 1.75 percent, as well Exim Bank offered generous grace periods and long repayment terms. Commercial lenders - such as Standard Chartered Bank - have charged Angola LIBOR plus 2.5 percent or more, with no grace period and a faster repayment schedule.

Reconstruction in war battered Angola was helped by three *oil backed loans and then Chinese companies came in and built roads, railways, hospitals, schools, and water systems. Nigeria took two loans from China to finance electricity generating projects, the Chinese built a hydropower project in the Republic of the Congo that’s repaid in oil and built another hydropower project in Ghana that’s repaid in cocoa beans.

*This kind of deal making isn’t unusual for China - China has plans to construct its high speed rail line through Asia and Eastern Europe in order to connect to the existing infrastructure in the European Union (EU). Additional rail lines are planned into South East Asia as well as Russia – this will likely be the largest infrastructure project in history. Financing and planning for this monumental project is being provided by China – who is already in negotiations with 17 countries to develop the project . In return the partnering nation will provide natural resources to China.

Pan-African bank, Ecobank Transnational Inc. opened a China desk - its purpose - to ease the flow of Chinese loans for African infrastructure projects. The desk includes two Ecobank employees and two senior staff from the Bank of China and the bank will offer a full range of banking services to Ghanaians, Africans and the Chinese as it allows the two continents to overcome the language and the cultural barriers.

Africa is a strategic market for China and we are anticipating huge volumes.” Henry Ampong, Ecobank’s global account manager

Ecobank will systematically roll out the services to its other branches on the African continent once the challenges of the pilot are dealt with.

China is building special trade and economic cooperation zones in Africa which provide a promising new approach to sustainable industrialization. Seven such zones are in the works: two in Nigeria, one each in Egypt, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Zambia and maybe one in Algeria, (Mauritius-JinFei, Nigeria-Ogun, Nigeria-Lekki, Zambia-Chambishi/Lusaka, Egypt-Suez, Ethiopia-Eastern). China has more than one hundred such areas and they were an important part of China’s early development

Economic zones allow countries to improve poor infrastructure, inadequate services, and weak institutions by focusing efforts on a limited geographical area. China's venture capital fund for Africa, the $5 billion China-Africa Development Fund, has taken equity shares in three of the seven planned zones. A new $1 billion fund for small and medium enterprises in Africa, will help African entrepreneurs set up businesses in the zones.


In a decade China’s economy will be much different than today’s. Instead of being mainly an export driven one it will rely more and more on internal consumption as the countries massive urbanizationgrowth fuels a rapidly expanding middle class. To feed this growth in consumption China is taking a leading role in the developing world.

I suggest PwC’s six and one are perhaps just the tip of the iceburg regarding Chinese M&A activities and like an iceburg’s true size the reality of China’s deal making is mostly out of sight. Many of the deals China signed would not show up in the PWC report because they take a non-controlling position – China funds undeveloped projects for off-take supply agreements without purchasing equity in the controlling company and often deal on a government to government level regarding loans, infrastructure build out and using the recipient countries resources for payback.

The Chinese are making massive loans, building huge infrastructure projects such as high speed rail, dams and other projects like bridges, roads, schools and hospitals. While SOEs and SWFs are making deals for the countries resources other Chinese companies are building the necessary infrastructure that every country needs to build a future for its citizens. This is the key to China’s overseas investments - adding infrastructure capacity makes their massive, most often early stage, resource investments viable and creates a long lasting economic legacy for the host country.

The overall Chinese package is very attractive and there are a lot of resource rich countries taking the Chinese up on their offers.

 “While the West supports microfinance for the poor in Africa, China is setting up a $5 billion equity fund to foster investment there. The West advocates trade liberalization to open African markets; China constructs special economic zones to draw Chinese firms to the continent. Westerners support government and democracy; the Chinese build roads and dams.” Isaac Twumasi Quantus

The fact that China is intent on acquiring Africa’s (and many other countries) resources for itself should be on everyone’s radar screen. Is it on yours?

If not, maybe it should be.

Richard (Rick) Mills

If you're interested in learning more about resource, bio-tech and technology companies please come and visit us at

The Anti-Corruption Charade -

The Anti-Corruption Charade - / Comment / Op-Ed Columnists - We should end our disastrous war on drugs / Comment / Op-Ed Columnists - We should end our disastrous war on drugs

Wal-Mart ready to get out of planning, into Africa

Wal-Mart ready to get out of planning, into Africa

Thursday, June 2, 2011

South Africa's Kulula Airlines

Kulula is a low-cost South-African airline that
doesn't take itself too seriously.   Check out their
new livery!  And have a read about their
Customer Relations.











Kulula is an Airline with head office situated in
Johannesburg.  Kulula airline attendants make an
effort to make the in-flight "safety lecture" and
announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are
some real examples that have been heard or reported:

On a Kulula flight, (there is no assigned seating, you
just sit where you want) passengers were apparently
having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant
announced, "People, people we're not picking out
furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"

On another flight with a very "senior" flight attendant
crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached
cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights.
This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of
your flight attendants."

On landing, the stewardess said, "Please be sure to take
all of your belongings. If you're going to leave anything,
please make sure it's something we'd like to have."

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are
only 4 ways out of this airplane."

"Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving
us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban
Airport, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa,
big fella. WHOA!"

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in
the Karoo, a flight attendant on a flight announced, "Please
take care when opening the overhead compartments because,
after a landing like that, sure as heck everything has shifted."

From a Kulula employee: "Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port
Elizabeth.  To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into
the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt;
and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't
be out in public unsupervised."

"In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will
descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull
it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you,
secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are travelling
with more than one small child, pick your favourite."

Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds,
but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and
remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula

"Your seats cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event
of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take
them with our compliments."

"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings.
Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight
attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Kulula Airlines
is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight
attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this

Heard on Kulula 255 just after a very hard landing in Cape Town:
The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was
quite a bump and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell
you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't
the flight attendant's fault, it was the asphalt."

Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town, on a particularly
windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain
really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight
Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother
City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened
while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"

Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing:
"We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces
us to the terminal."

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered
his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which
required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers
exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline. He
said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the
passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart
comment.  Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old
lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you
a question?"
"Why, no Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?" The little old lady
said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg , the attendant
came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats
until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a
screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has
cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door
and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to
thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you
get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized
metal tube, we hope you'll think of Kulula Airways."

Heard on a Kulula flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to
smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you
can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."